In COVID-19 fight, Brazil divided between total lockdown and reopening

Sao Paulo, May 5 (efe-epa).- Brazil is approaching the most critical moment of the epidemic in the country, divided between the states that have decided to reinforce social isolation and those that are already beginning to rehearse a gradual reopening.

The country recorded a daily record of 600 deaths on Tuesday.

Maranhao, in the impoverished northeast of the country, on Tuesday became the first Brazilian state to order the total confinement of the population, although only in the regional capital, Sao Luis, and its metropolitan area.

The lockdown in Sao Luis and its metropolitan area, home to about 1.5 million people, was mandated by a court at the request of the Prosecutor’s Office and with the support of the governor. It will be in force until May 14, with the possibility of extension.

“We are doing it to avoid a more difficult situation,” Maranhao Governor Flavio Dino told GloboNews.

Sao Luis woke up Tuesday with its main avenues blocked and a contingent of police officers ensuring compliance with the closure, according to EFE.

To date, the 27 states of Brazil have adopted, to a greater or lesser degree, isolation measures, such as the closure of non-essential stores and schools, and recommended that the population stay home, without obligation.

However, Maranhao, with some 7 million residents, has gone one step further to contain the exponential growth of COVID-19 cases, which as of Tuesday reached 4,530 – the sixth state with the most infections – and 271 deaths.

This extreme measure, which restricts the essential movement of people who face a penalty of a fine for breaching the rules, is new for Brazil, but not for other countries such as Spain, Italy and Argentina.

In just two and a half months, Brazil has accumulated 114,715 cases and 7,921 deaths, of which 600 were recorded in the last 24 hours, although it is estimated that the figures are much higher due to enormous underreporting.

The fight against the novel coronavirus in Brazil has been tainted by the conflict between far-right President Jair Bolsonaro, who is against lockdowns, and governors and mayors, who have preferred to follow the recommendations of the World Health Organization.

The Supreme Court recently said states and municipalities have the jurisdiction to impose this type of confinement, and not the central government.

With Bolsonaro again on Tuesday asking for a return to normality and assuring that “the worst is over,” and with the Ministry of Health recommending otherwise, states and municipalities continue to fight the virus on their own and in different ways.

The north and northeast regions, which have 46 percent of Brazil’s cases and have precarious public health systems compared to other areas, are beginning to take more rigid measures.

In addition to Maranhao, as of Friday, another important northeastern city, Fortaleza, capital of the state of Ceará, will also adopt a total lockdown.

Ceará has the third-highest number of cases (11,470) and deaths (795) in the country.

In the north, the government of Pará, in the heart of the Amazon and which has seen the number of deaths almost quadruple in just one week to 369, on Tuesday ordered total confinement in 10 municipalities in the state, including the capital Belém.

Bordering Colombia, Peru and Venezuela, the neighboring state of Amazonas, where 8,109 cases and 649 deaths have been recorded so far, has almost run out of coffins due to the rate of burials.

On the other hand, in the southeastern region, Rio de Janeiro – the second most-affected by the crisis with 12,391 cases and 1,123 deaths, and with its health system virtually collapsed – is discussing adopting a lockdown.

Meanwhile, Sao Paulo, epicenter of the pandemic (34,053 cases and 2,851 deaths) and where a “soft” quarantine is in place, as in Rio, is not considering an absolute closure and has even announced a de-escalation as of May 11, although it specified that it will depend on the evolution of the curve.

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